7 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Has a Bad Design

If it’s true that “your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing (Andy Stanley),” the corollary is that if you don’t like the results you are currently experiencing, you need to acknowledge that you have a bad design and change it.  After all, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Albert Einstein).”

Let me say that again.  If you don’t like the results you are currently experiencing, you need to acknowledge that you have a bad design and change it.

Here are 7 signs you have a bad design for small group ministry:

  1. Your percentage connected is flatlined.  Whether your weekend attendance is increasing or not, a flatlined percentage connected (the percentage of your adults who are connected in a group) indicates that your small group system is inadequately designed.  See also, Breaking the Mythical 150% Participation Barrier and The Catch a Moving Train Scenario.
  2. You have trouble finding enough leaders.  This is a common symptom of designs that depend on selecting new leaders from the usual suspects.  Once your congregation is larger than about 250 adults it will become increasingly common that your senior pastor and platform staff will be recognized at the grocery store and restaurants by people they don’t know.  When this happens your strategy must be able to recruit from the adults you do not know because some of the highest capacity potential leaders will be unknown.  This phenomenon is what makes the HOST strategy and the Small Group Connection strategy so effective.
  3. You have leaders ready but not enough interest to fill their groups.  This is often an indication that there are too many options on the belonging and becoming menu (i.e., Sunday school, discipleship training, Precepts, off campus small groups, etc.).  It can also be an indication that your congregation sees the weekend service as everything they need.  See also, Small Group Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu and Determining the Minimum Required and Recommended Dose.
  4. Your coaching structure does not work.  This is a common symptom of bad small group ministry design.  The wrong people or the wrong job description can both play a part in the implications of a bad design.  See also, How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
  5. Your senior pastor is reluctant to champion the importance of community.  Although there are several other reasons a senior pastor may be reluctant to be the small group champion, a common reason is they don’t see your system as effective.  See also, 5 things Senior Pastors Need to Know about Small Group Ministry.
  6. Your small groups deliver a sense of belonging but rarely produce becoming.  Small group strategies that make it easy to connect but aren’t designed to make disciples are poorly designed.  See also, 5 Keys to Building Small Group Ministry at the Corner of Becoming and Belonging and Would You Rather: Connect More People or Make More Disciples?
  7. Only a small percentage of your new groups continue meeting after they’re launched.  This design flaw is a leading indicator for flatlined percentage connected.  Strategies that struggle to launch and sustain new groups need an immediate overhaul.  See also, 5 Keys to Sustaining New Groups.

What do you think?   Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Quotebook: Self-Awareness

How aware are you of your own tendencies?  Are you aware of those times when your own preconceived ideas and certainties serve as a blockade to anything unfamiliar or different?  I love this line from Ed Catmull, current president of Pixar.

“There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced that you are right.”  Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.

When I read this and allow it to penetrate my own prejudices I remember my own resistance to ideas like the small group connection, video curriculum and the HOST strategy.

Could My New Short Course Help Connect the Rest of Your Adults?

What percentage of your average weekend adult attendance have you connected?  30%?  50%?  80%

What if I could give you an idea that would help you add another 10 or 20%?

What if I could give 4 or 5 ideas that would help you connect the rest of your adults?

You’re Invited!

I want to invite you to join me for my new 4 session short course: Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry.  Based on my most requested and most popular workshop, it draws more positive comments and rave reviews than anything else I talk about.

Here’s what you’ll gain:

  • An accurate diagnosis of your current situation (limiting factors, barriers, untapped resources and advantages)
  • The tools that will help you identify future opportunities with the most upside.
  • Resources that help you craft a preferred future that will help your ministry move in the right direction
  • The strategies that will help you move in the direction of your preferred future and stay on course.

What’s Included:

  1. Four 75 minute sessions (60 minutes of content + 15 minutes Q&A)
  2. Downloadable outlines (allowing you to capture every detail)
  3. Each session is packed with actionable takeaways
  4. All sessions are downloadable to share with your team
  5. Password-protected site with additional supporting resources.
  6. 100% money back guarantee.  If you’re not completely satisfied…I’ll refund your money.
  7. Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $100)
  8. Questions?  Email Me for information.

When, Where and Other Details:

  • The first session is on Thursday, September 11th at 11:00 a.m. pacific.
  • Sessions 2 thru 4 are on September 18th, September 25th and October 2nd.
  • Regular pricing: $49.95
  • Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $100)
  • Questions?  Email Me for information.

Registration Options (pulldown)




The 7 Biggest Problems Facing Small Group Pastors

problemsWhat are the problems you face?  I’ve been at this a long time.  I’ve pretty much seen it all.  Here’s my list:

The 7 biggest problems facing small group pastors:

  1. A senior pastor who is reluctant or ineffective as small group champion.  This may be the most under-the-radar problem facing small group pastors.  After all, a significant number of senior pastors will tell you, “We hired a small group pastor to be the small group champion!”  Do you face that problem?  Does your small group pastor?  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #1: A Doubtful and Conflicted Senior Pastor.
  2. The small group pastor position is too low on the org chart.  Building a thriving small group ministry depends on the right decisions being made at the right time.  When the most knowledgable and most passionate person is 2 or 3 rungs down from where decisions are made it is irresponsible to assume the best outcome.  Are you there?  Is your small group pastor?  See also, 5 Habits I’d Look for If I Was Hiring a Small Group Pastor.
  3. Equal status and promotion for every ministry and program.  When everything is important, nothing is important.  Churches that promote everything equally should not expect anything to thrive.  How does your menu look?  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #2: A Bloated Belong and Become Menu.
  4. Unrealistic expectations.  Churches with thriving small group ministry cultures have build them over years, even decades.  The belief that you can arrive at your preferred future, that you can move from where you are to where you want to be, in a single move or even a few moves, is unrealistic.  To cast as vision unrealistic expectations leads to idea fatigue.  See also, 5 Easily Overlooked Secrets to Building a Thriving Small Group Ministry and Wash, Rinse, Repeat and the Long Run.
  5. Acceptance of the status quo.  Remember, your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.  If you want different results, you must disrupt the status quo.  Failure to break free from the stranglehold of the status quo dooms you to remain stuck.  Is that your world?  See also, Beware the Lure of the Status Quo.
  6. Codependent catering to the usual suspects.  The easiest thing to do is to satisfy the already connected.  The wisest thing to do is to become preoccupied with the needs and interests of the right people (i.e., the still unconnected, unreached people in your crowd and community).  Who are you catering to?  See also, Preoccupied with the Needs and Interests of the right People and Design Your Connection Strategy with Unconnected People in Mind.
  7. Strategic mismatch between the small group system or model and the percentage unconnected.  This problem plagues both the small group pastor and senior pastor alike.  Falling in love with systems or models without acknowledging and even choosing the set of problems that come with them often comes back to haunt.  Have a high percentage unconnected?  Be sure you are paying attention to the number of new groups you are actually launching every year.  Problems finding enough new leaders?  Be sure you are connecting that result to the design of your system.  See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting People?

What do you think?   Have a question?  Have one to add?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Image by Will Schrimshaw

Rick Warren: My Small Group Pulled Me Through Dark Days

I’ve written many times about the role of the senior pastor as small group champion.  I’ve also pointed you to what I believe is the real reason that Saddleback has so many in groups. Can’t see the video?  You can watch it right here. You’ll find a great collection of Saddleback small group videos on this free download page.

Steve Gladen on Aligning “Affinities” with Small Groups

Do you have gender-based ministries or programs?  For example, do you have a Beth Moore Bible study for women?  And maybe a monthly men’s breakfast and Men’s Fraternity?  How about a couples’ date night?  Singles’ events?  Do you have ministries or programs designed to minister to these affinities?

How are they organized?  Do you have a cohesive strategy?  Or do your affinity ministries really function as individual silos?

I had the opportunity today to talk with Steve Gladen, Saddleback’s small group pastor, about the way their small group ministry is structured and how they’re handling gender-based ministry.  It was a conversation I  know you’re going to want to listen in to.

Here’s my conversation with Steve Gladen

Need some background?  Here’s a very helpful article from Steve on the same topic: Aligning Affinities to Your Small Group Model

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Top 10 Articles for Senior Pastors (or Small Group Pastors Who Support Them)

12157652094_001647d256_cOver the years I’ve emphasized the role of senior pastor as small group champion a million times.  Somehow it made sense to gather up my top 10 articles for senior pastors (or small group pastors who support them) all in one place.

Here are my top 10 articles for senior pastors:

  1. Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups
  2. 5 Things Senior Pastors Need to Know about Small Group Ministry
  3. Note to Senior Pastors: Authentic Community Begins with You
  4. 3 Prerequisite Convictions for Senior Pastors Who Experience Authentic Community
  5. 6 Ways to Help Your Senior Pastor Make the Small Group Ask
  6. The Role of the Senior Pastor
  7. Diagnosis: Senior Pastor Buy-In
  8. What Part Does Your Senior Pastor Play?
  9. Small Group Ministry Roadblock #1: A Doubtful or Conflicted Senior Pastor
  10. Dilbert on What Not to Say to Your Senior Pastor

Image by Teresa Esteban

Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry – My New Short Course

Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry

Coming to the conclusion that you might need a new design for your small group ministry?  Concerned that there may be something (or a collection of factors) preventing you from taking your small group ministry where you need to go?

You’re Invited!

I want to invite you to join me for my new 4 session short course: Design, Build and Sustain a Thriving Small Group Ministry.  Based on my most requested and most popular workshop, it draws more positive comments and rave reviews than anything else I talk about.

Here’s what you’ll gain:

  • An accurate diagnosis of your current situation (limiting factors, barriers, untapped resources and advantages)
  • The tools that will help you identify future opportunities with the most upside.
  • Resources that help you craft a preferred future that will help your ministry move in the right direction
  • The strategies that will help you move in the direction of your preferred future and stay on course.

What’s Included:

  1. Four 75 minute sessions (60 minutes of content + 15 minutes Q&A)
  2. Downloadable outlines (allowing you to capture every detail)
  3. Each session is packed with actionable takeaways
  4. All sessions are downloadable to share with your team
  5. Password-protected site with additional supporting resources.
  6. 100% money back guarantee.  If you’re not completely satisfied…I’ll refund your money.
  7. Take advantage of my earlybird pricing at $39.95 (Regular pricing: $49.95)
  8. Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $100)
  9. Questions?  Email Me for information.

When, Where and Other Details:

  • The first session is on Thursday, September 11th at 11:00 a.m. pacific.
  • Sessions 2 thru 4 are on September 18th, September 25th and October 1st.
  • Regular pricing: $49.95
  • Take advantage of a 20% discount ($39.95) through August 31st.
  • Add a diagnostic coaching call at a special reduced rate (My regular price for a 60 minute call is $100)
  • Questions?  Email Me for information.

Registration Options (pulldown)




7 Small Group Ministry Truths I Hold to Be Self-Evident

I’ve always loved this line from the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Here are 7 small group  ministry truths that I hold to be self-evident:

  1. Unconnected people are always one tough thing away from never being at your church again.  This is self-evident, isn’t it?  Unconnected people aren’t lining up for counseling appointments.  When a tough thing comes their way, they   Once you determine your true percentage connected, it should never stop bothering you.  See also, What’s Your Urgency Level for Connecting People?
  2. Whatever you want to happen at the member level, will have to happen to the leader first.  This self-evident, isn’t it?  Want group members to feel cared for?  Want them to know what it’s like to have someone praying for them personally?  Want them to have a sense of family?  You cannot expect members to experience anything their leader has not already experienced.  See also, Life-Change at the Member Level.
  3. If you want to build a thriving small group ministry your senior pastor must be the small group champion.  This is self-evident, isn’t it?  The small group champion role cannot be delegated.  The most influential person in almost every congregation must play the part…if you want to build a thriving small group ministry.  See also, Small Group Ministry Roadblock #1: A Doubtful or Conflicted Senior Pastor and Your Senior Pastor as Small Group Champion Leads to a Church OF Groups.
  4. Only the right people are legitimate candidates for the coaching role.  This is self-evident, isn’t it?  Warm and wiling candidates will not get the job done.  Hold out for hot and qualified.  Hold out for high capacity.  Hold out for fruitful and fulfilled.  Anything less is a waste of time and energy.  See also, 5 Assumptions that Set Up Small Group Coaching to #FAIL and How to Build an Effective Coaching Structure.
  5. There are no problem-free small group systems, models or strategies.  This is self-evident, isn’t it?  And yet, the pursuit of problem-free delays more ministry than anything else!  Every small group system, model or strategy comes with a set of problems.  Wise leaders simply choose the set of problems they’d rather have.  See also, The Pursuit of Problem Free.
  6. Your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing.  This is self-evident, isn’t it?  You may want to explain away your results as a fluke.  “We did not reach our goal because of the weather.”  “It was closing weekend at the county fair.”  “Easter was late that year.”  Don’t fall for it.  Acknowledge that results are directly determined by design.  If you want different results, you must change the design.  See also, 5 GroupLife Dots You May Not Be Connecting.
  7. Pitting connecting people against making disciples is a false dichotomy.  This is self-evident, isn’t it?  You do not have to choose.  In fact, your small group strategy should be designed to make it easy to connect unconnected people and make fully devoted followers.  Anything less is an insufficient strategy.  See also, Would You Rather: Connect More People or Make More Disciples? and 5 Essential Ingredients of Groups that Make Disciples.

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue?  You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Becoming More: A New Study from Lysa TerKeurst

becoming moreHad an opportunity this week to preview a new study from Lysa TerKeurst, New York Times bestselling author and speaker who helps everyday women live an adventure of faith through following Jesus Christ. As president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, Lysa has led thousands to make their walk with God an invigorating journey.

Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl is a 6 session study for women that “guides participants on an incredible, tremendously rewarding journey on which they will discover how to:

  • Build personal, two-way conversations with God
  • Study the Bible and experience life-change for themselves
  • Cultivate greater authenticity and depth in their relationships
  • Make disappointments work for them, not against them
  • Find incredible joy as they live out their faith in everyday circumstances

DVD-driven, the study features Lysa TerKeurst’s easy conversational and story-telling style.  Set up with an attention grabbing personal story, a short Bible teaching lays the foundation for the sessions discussion.  With an average length of about 15 minutes, the video teaching is in the range that holds attention very well.

The participant’s guide includes a video viewing guide and a simple set of discussion questions for each session.  Providing a daily experience, the each session also includes a Between Sessions Personal Bible Study.

TerKeurst’s very popular book by the same title makes an excellent companion (and the participant’s guide provides a reading schedule).

Becoming More Than a Bible Study Girl is a straightforward study that will provide a very good next step for women’s small groups or Bible studies.  If you’re looking for a study that will help group members take spiritual next steps beyond business-as-usual, Becoming More is a study you ought to take a look at.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”